Sunday, April 06, 2008

The farce continues

For a blog dedicated to the cause of an EU referendum, the weeks from early December – when Brown slid into Lisbon to sign the new treaty - until now should have been our finest hours. This should have been the period when the argument on the European Union really took off, where the issues became vibrant and relevant, and the debate came to life.

However, as Booker records in his column, that "debate" has degenerated into a cynical farce where – appropriately on 1 April – the Lords discussed the treaty in a charade that was in no sense a real debate. Writes Booker, "The two sides merely talked past each other, from lunchtime until midnight, without ever engaging on any point."

Needless to say, we recorded its passing, together with an example of the pitiful ignorance of Lord Kerr, typical of the Europhile tendency who speaks for the Union without the first idea of what it really means.

Booker also notes Рas did we Рthe "sublime irony" of Margot Wallstr̦m then announcing her a new initiative on the following day - "Debate Europe, Giving Citizens A Voice", with the Commission planning to spend millions of euros on Pan-European Citizens' Consultation Projects, to enable us to become "ever more closely involved" in debating the EU's future.

The people of Europe cannot be allowed referendums on the treaty. But once the Not-the-Constitution is in place, they may engage in "democracy, dialogue and debate" with the EU's political class - on terms dictated by the likes of Ms Wallström and her colleagues.

Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour, adds Booker.

What then so much typifies this "non-debate", of course, is the media's refusal to engage, witness a long leader in The Sunday Telegraph headed , "Lesson from Lords in how democracy works".

Policy on immigration, the leader tells is, "has more impact on the future of Britain than almost any other area of Government legislation." It continues: "Large-scale immigration of the kind which Labour has endorsed over the past decade, where up to a quarter of a million people arrive here every year, has the potential to transform the country…".

But missing from the long tract are those two crucial words, "European" and "Union". Instead, the leader discusses the application of the government's points system, but then observes that it:

… will do nothing to diminish one of the biggest categories of migrants: spouses following their husbands or wives into Britain. In 2006, the number of spouses entering Britain in that way was 40,960, more than twice the number a decade earlier. Many of those spouses are from rural villages in remote parts of South Asia and speak no English. Many have little or no education, and some are illiterate. They find it very hard to adapt to "British values", never mind to become economically productive residents of our country.
What is left hanging is any discussion of what will diminish this category of immigration, as answer there is none. Under our old friend Directive 2004/38/EC, migrants who become naturalised citizens and thus acquire rights as "EU citizens" have an absolute right to bring in their husbands or wives – and their parents, parents-in-law, children and even cousins if they are "economic dependents". Under EU law, there is nothing the British government can do to prevent them.

So it is that, as the two sides talk past each others, mainstream political issues are simply not discussed in any meaningful sense, which allows The Telegraph to opine that, "scepticism is infecting the voters' attitude to all politicians."

It wants our politicians to treat us, the electorate, with a degree of respect. It wants them, "to be honest with us when they have got their facts wrong, explain truthfully what the real consequences of their chosen policies are, and exercise caution and integrity when they award themselves money from public funds."

If they do not do so, says the paper, scepticism about politicians will turn into general disillusion with the whole democratic political system - and that will be a disaster for our country.

But, what the paper does not seem to realise is that the biggest malaise of all is that, in so many areas, the problem is not the government's "chosen policies" but that they are not the policies of our government at all. They are EU policies, imposed rather than chosen, over which we have no control.

And, as we saw from the Lord's debate last week, the very last thing the government wants to do is "explain truthfully what the real consequences" of those policies. Thus, we are not going to see "general disillusion with the whole democratic political system." The real problem is that it is no longer a democratic system at all. That it cannot be as long as we remain in the European Union, and that is where the politicians (and the media) are going to have to come clean.


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